Latest (Lockdown) Crime Reads

I hope everyone is well and keeping safe. During Lockdown, my concentration has taken a dive and rather than open new books I’ve been re-reading many of my favourite novels. However, as we all adjust to the new normal, I’ve finally started on my reading pile – some newly published, others books which I’ve always meant to read.

Lots of parallels have been made between our current crisis and the trials of life in Britain during the Second World War. The Walls We Build by Jules Hayes was a timely read as it has the character of Winston Churchill playing an important role in the story which unfolds. The friendship of Frank, Florence and Hilda is strained by a marriage of convenience in the 1930s the ramifications of which continue through to the turn of the century. Beautifully written, I loved the complex relationships and mystery at the heart of the novel.

Our Fathers by Rebecca Wait is a story of a family obliterated by a sudden act of violence and the impact it has on a remote island community. Tom, eight years old when his father shot his mother and siblings, returns to Litta to find answers to their deaths. Lyrical and reflective, the surprises in this book are as much to do with the web of relationships as to the reveal of the motivation behind the killings.

I enjoyed Lucy Atkins’ debut novel, The Night Visitor, and was looking forward to her follow up which was published recently. Magpie Lane is set in Oxford where protagonist Dee is a nanny to the daughter of a Oxford College Master. We discover, as the book opens, that Felicity is missing and police are struggling to identify any suspects. Dee narrates how she got the job and the odd dynamic of the family, taking the reader on an interesting and twisty journey. I love an intelligent thriller and this is one!

While re-reading Jamaica Inn last week, I realised I had a Daphne Du Maurier on my shelf I hadn’t yet read. The Flight of the Falcon is set in the Italian town of Ruffano which tour guide Armino Fabbio returns to after he’s unwittingly implicated in the murder of his childhood family servant. There, he discovers that a brother he thought was dead is instrumental in reviving the cult of the sinister Duke Claudio who reigned with terror five hundred years earlier. An atmospheric, absorbing read, it has Du Maurier’s trademark eye for the unusual and sinister.

Finally, I was sent this book detailing walks around London with a bloody/murderous theme written by David Fathers. The walks in Bloody London span two thousand years of history and there was plenty I wasn’t aware of, even though I lived in the capital for ten years. With a forward by David Aaronovitch, I particularly enjoyed reading about the goings on in peripheral areas around the city. At the moment, the book is for armchair browsing only but fingers crossed that changes soon as there are plenty of great places to discover thanks to this book.

Granite Noir Reading

I’m off to Aberdeen at the end of this month for Granite Noir, Aberdeen’s celebration of crime fiction. Last year’s event was great fun and I’m looking forward to visiting the granite city again. If you’re nearby, I’ll be appearing alongside Jorn Lier Horst and Mari Hannah on the May the (Police) Force be with You on Friday evening. It would be lovely to see you if you can make it.

I’m also moderating four panels which I’ve been reading for over the last few weeks. It’s always great to see what others are writing and, as usual, it’s heartening to see the diversity of stories which make up the crime fiction genre. Because there are a fair few authors involved, I’ve split my reading over two blog posts, the second of which will come next week.

My moderating begins on Friday lunchtime with the Breathtaking Thrillers panel with Lilja Sigurdardottir and Catherine Ryan Howard. I reviewed Lilja’s English language debut, Snare, in a previous post in a and it’ll be fascinating to dig deeper into the world of her Reykjavik thriller.

Appearing alongside her is Catherine Ryan Howard who I met in a recent trip to Dublin. It was a fascinating city to visit not least as I’d just read Howard’s latestbook, The Liar’s Girl. In this tightly-plotted thriller, Alison Smith, after a decade living in the Netherlands returns to Ireland to face her former boyfriend who is serving a sentence for multiple murders. Following a recent copy-cat killing, he states he has some news on the murderer that he is only prepared to reveal to her. The Liar’s Girl is very well written and unsettling thriller set around Dublin’s canals which explores the assumptions we make about those accused of heinous crimes.

On the Saturday, I’ll be interviewing Lucy Atkins, Sarah Stovell and Louise Hutcheseon about their books.  It’s rare in a panel that themes intertwine seamlessly but all three authors have a written books that explore the world of authors and the truthfulness of particular narratives. In The Night Visitorprofessor Olivia Sweetman publishes a bestseller, a book based on a Victorian diary found by Vivian Tester in a house where she is working as a housekeeper. Vivian’s role has been kept hidden from Olivia’s publisher and readers, but has created a dependent relationship that Olivia is determined to break. It’s a fascinating, page-turning read with the narrative alternating between London, Sussex and the South of France.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell also documents a destructive relationship, here between bestselling author Bo Luxton and Alice Dark, an aspiring writer recovering from a fractured childhood. The women are drawn together after meeting on a writing retreat led by Bo but soon their views on what their relationship entails begin to diverge wildly. The unsettling Exquisite cleverly portrays  an intoxicating relationship where secrets and power struggles hint at darker forces at work.

The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson is a short, exquisitely written book about the deception that Lewis Carson undertakes when, as a publishing assistant, he steals a young woman’s novel after she is found strangled on Peckham Rye. Hutcheson is excellent at deceiving the reader and it’s an intelligent and satisfying book.

I hope to see some readers of Crimepices at Granite Noir. Do come up and say hello if you’re there. I’ll be posting lots of pictures on my Facebook page.

 

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